It’s no secret that Downtown Miami’s experiencing an urban renaissance, but we’re still struggling with a street network that’s basically designed and built with the sole purpose of moving cars.
After over a year of planning, design, and coordination with partner agencies, the Miami Downtown Development Authority is making strides to fulfill Miami’s commitment to Complete Streets — one that would involve changing the SE/SW 1st Street corridor (between SW 2nd Avenue and Biscayne Boulevard) to include a red bus lane and a green bike lane.
Looking to cities like Chicago, New York, and San Francisco for inspiration, the pilot project is designed to create dedicated spaces for cyclists, pedestrians, and mass transit in the downtown area, which has seen a population surge of 150 percent since 2010 and is now home to over 90,000 urbanites.
“Downtown Miami has experienced explosive growth over the past 10 years, and while this momentum has brought the urban core to life – it has also magnified the reality that our city is growing faster than its infrastructure has kept up,” said Miami Downtown Development Authority executive director Alyce Robertson.
Complete Streets is a design approach to street planning and design that enables convenient and comfortable travel for everyone — no matter their age, income, race, ethnicity, physical ability, or method of travel. The nationwide initiative has strong support and policies in place across 50 states and 955 individual municipalities. Research has found this approach brings benefits like positive environmental impact, greater local economic development, and improvements to physical health. “It’s a concept about streets being for everyone, no matter your ability, age or how you travel,” said Fabian De La Espriella, an urban designer and transportation planning manager with the Miami DDA.
Other cities have adopted Complete Streets initiatives and implemented dedicated transit lanes and traffic calming measures to self-enforce driving behavior and make streets accessible to all users. The crazy idea: actually provide people the spaces to move safely around their neighborhoods, and they’ll do it.
Starting the third week of June, roadwork will start taking place for approximately six weeks to remove current striping and add new paint to transform the street into a multimodal corridor. Tentative completion is projected for the end of July, and at no point will the entire street be closed off to traffic.
De La Espriella said SE/SW 1st was considered low hanging fruit to implement a complete street because it is a street that is currently underutilized when compared to its capacity. The road was built to carry way more cars per day than currently use it, which means that it can be transformed without creating traffic delays. “You have the ability to repurpose space on the street and to accommodate other users without affecting existing traffic patterns,” he said.
It’s the first of its kind in Downtown Miami, which is a big deal. The initiative has been a collaborative approach between the Miami DDA, Miami-Dade County, and the City of Miami, along with support from the Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTPW) and the Health Foundation of South Florida.
De La Espriella said there’s sometimes initial hesitation to roadwork, but the benefits surpass the temporary disturbance. “People like spending time in places that are more walkable. Businesses end up opening up to the street, vacancy rates decrease — It’s a proven cycle.”